Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that warm the Earth’s surface, and they withhold heat in the atmosphere; as a result, they don’t allow heat to flow back into space.
Globally, the major GHGs emitted by human activities include carbon dioxide which is 76% of the total global emissions; methane which is 16% of the total global emissions; nitrous oxide which is 6% of the total global emissions; and fluorinated gases which are 2% of the total global emissions.
Carbon dioxide is produced during the combustion of solid waste, oil, coal, natural gas, wood products, and trees, and through certain types of chemical reactions; for example, during cement production.
Methane is emitted during the decomposition of cattle and organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills, and during the processing, mining, and transportation of oil, coal, and natural gas.
Nitrous oxide is produced when industrial and agricultural activities are taking place, and when fossil fuels and solid waste are being burned.
Fluorinated gases originate from industrial processes, either as a by-product or concluding or final product.
The following are 25 interesting facts on greenhouse gases that are intriguing and could definitely add to your knowledge base:
1. The greenhouse effect is brought about or intensified by surface pollution gases that rise into the troposphere (which is the lowest atmospheric layer: from 4 to 11 miles high) and can heat the Earth’s surface.
2. Each greenhouse gas affects climate change; however, this depends on their concentration and how long they stay in the atmosphere, and the level of their effectiveness in producing global warming.
3. Some GHGs can persist in the air or atmosphere for many years.
4. The countries that emit the largest quantities of methane are Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, USA, and Australia, which all account for about 50% of the total anthropogenic methane emissions worldwide.
5. Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the USA.
6. Electricity production, distribution, and transmission account for around 84% of the GHG emissions in the USA; most of the GHGs are carbon dioxide, while less than 1% of the emissions are sulfur hexafluoride which is used in distribution equipment and electricity transmission.
7. The storage of manure produces nitrous oxide and methane and accounts for around 15% of the entire GHG emissions from agriculture in the USA.
8. The burning of fossil fuels in motor vehicles for transportation accounts for about 28% of all GHG emissions.
9. Industries generate about 14% of GHG emissions, mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels.
10. Different agricultural producers account for around 8% of the GHGs that are generated mainly from agricultural soils, livestock, and rice production.
11. Soil management accounts for around 50% of nitrous oxide emissions.
12. About 33% of the methane produced by agriculture is from the digestive processes of livestock.
13. Commercial and residential sources account for around 11% of GHG emissions.
14. Commercial and residential building endeavors account for around 39% of the carbon dioxide generated from fuel sources.
15. All the fluorinated gases that originate from refrigeration and air conditioning systems, and household products escape into the air.
16. The global warming potential of methane is 25 times more than that of carbon dioxide.
17. Approximately 70% of electricity is generated from the combustion of natural gas and coal; both produce carbon dioxide in significant quantities.
18. Presently, methane contributes not less than one-third of the global warming caused by humans.
19. Compared to other GHGs, fluorinated gases are released in small quantities; but they have a very powerful effect on global warming.
20. Chlorofluorocarbons (which are potent GHGs and deplete the atmosphere’s ozone layer) had been replaced with hydrofluorocarbons (which are equally strong GHGs) to correct an environmental problem; unfortunately, although this replacement corrects one environmental problem, it still causes another.
21. Sulfur hexafluoride is another potent GHG mainly used to insulate electrical equipment; leakage of the gas and emissions during equipment maintenance aggravate global warming trends where insulating electrical equipment are being used.
22. The GHGs trapped in the ocean are discharged slowly into the atmosphere over time when water heats more slowly than the atmosphere.
23. Ozone depletion still has a considerable effect on the temperature balance of the earth, even though ozone depletion is not a major cause of climate change.
24. Atmospheric ozone heats the stratosphere by absorbing solar ultraviolet radiation; in addition, it absorbs infrared radiation from the earth’s surface and traps heat in the troposphere.
25. Even after a substantial reduction in GHGs, the full effect of emissions will still be sensed for many years into the future, due to lag time.
Best Practices for Environmental Health: Environmental Pollution, Protection, Quality and Sustainability by Herman Koren